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Storyboard Artist Accuses ‘Chipmunks’ Maker Bagdasarian Productions Of Unethical Behavior (Updated)

Last night, Los Angeles-based animation industry artist Maddie Taylor posted a public Facebook message accusing Alvin and the Chipmunks owners Bagdasarian Productions of unethical industry practices.

According to Taylor, who is a veteran with two decades of experience in animation:

I will tell you that Ross Bagdasarian [Jr.] fired me AFTER I completed my board. In an incredibly offensive email, he told me the whole second half was unusable. He informed me, as per an agreement I didn’t read closely enough (that is on me), that he was only paying me half of what was agreed to. Upon seeing the finished animation later, HE USED MY ENTIRE BOARD SHOT FOR SHOT!

Taylor felt compelled to share her experience as a “warning” to other artists, after seeing a notice online that Bagdasarian is currently hiring storyboard artists. Bagdasarian Productions most recently produced the TV series ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks, which airs on Nickelodeon in the United States.

In the comments of Taylor’s post, other artists who have recently worked for Bagdasarian Productions claim similar experiences in which they were paid less than initially contracted for. One artist, Nora Johnson, wrote:

He did the same thing to me. Held off paying me the full amount till I ‘finished the fixes’ then once I was done, suddenly the board wasn’t good enough and he wouldn’t pay me the balance. It was a nasty insulting email, the first and only time he even bothered to contact me directly.

Johnson said that she’d brought the issue to the attention of the Animation Guild Local 839, but because Bagdasarian Productions is not a signatory facility, the union is powerless to pursue the issue.

Another artist, Christian Lignan, who reportedly had a run-in with Bagdasarian over related issues, wrote in the comments of Taylor’s Facebook post, “May God give him hemorrhoids and very short arms so he cannot scratch for the rest of his life.”

The Facebook post, which has now been deleted, became a gathering place for former Bagdasarian employees, who cited negative interactions with Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (the son of the Chipmunks’ original creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr. who died in 1972). Some of the comments, such as the ones below, dated back to employees who had worked on The Chipmunk Adventure, which was released in 1987:

bagdasarian_comments

Cartoon Brew has requested comment from Bagdasarian Productions about these allegations. The company has not responded as of this writing, but we will update with their comments if they do.

UPDATE: Maddie Taylor deleted her post from Facebook. In a Cartoon Brew comment, she wrote, “For what it’s worth, I have every board, every email, every revision from my short time there. Nothing I said is untrue.” In a subsequent comment on this site, she recanted her entire criticism of Bagdasarian, writing:

I am retracting my statement. I now have information that I didn’t have before. I apologize wholeheartedly to Bagdasarian Productions. My post was out of anger and I did not have full possession of all the facts surrounding my work for Ross Bagdasarian. I truly apologize to him and for any damage he may have suffered as a result of my ill thought out post.

None of the other artists who posted of similar experiences have recanted their statements at this time. Bagdasarian Productions has not responded to Cartoon Brew’s request for comment.

  • Pleasure Cruz

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • Maddie Taylor

    Well, I would have appreciated you guys talking to me first. But the toothpaste is out of the tube. For what it’s worth, I have every board, every email, every revision from my short time there. Nothing I said is untrue.

    • AmidAmidi

      Thank you for sharing your story, Maddie. If there is anything else that you’d like to share, please feel free to reach out. We have contacted Bagdasarian Productions for comment, but they have not responded yet.

      • Maddie Taylor

        Well, I didn’t really share it, did I? You just took it and ran with it. Oh well, that’s what I get for making my post public.

        • AmidAmidi

          Yes, posting a message on the world’s largest social network, labeling it “ATTENTION ALL ANIMATION STORYBOARD ARTISTS,” and making it publicly available to all 1.65 billion users of the service, constitutes sharing by even the most conservative definition of the word.

          • Maddie Taylor

            OK. Well here is an update. I hope you will share this as well. I am retracting my statement. I now have information that I didn’t have before. I apologize wholeheartedly to Bagdasarian Productions. My post was out of anger and I did not have full possession of all the facts surrounding my work for Ross Bagdasarian. I truly apologize to him and for any damage he may have suffered as a result of my ill thought out post.

          • Ken Martinez

            It does seem like he has a history of shady, morally reprehensible treatment of his employees, based on all the Bagdasarian vets who have horror stories and aren’t recanting.

            That one anecdote about him not paying health insurance is despicable.

          • Mike Toole

            It’s all garbage. You pursued this career and are in a perpetuate state of watching your ass, having to care, obviously emotional enough to be making and retracting statements. They’re gonna make the artist crying out on social media the villain. What a joke, the email office, the art career as an escape from the hell of the American dream. It reminds me of when that Duke Lacrosse team got that woman to recant how they all raped her with their lawyer gang bullying her, and now officially thats the official story, in the courts and everything, as if it didn’t happen. We’re on Earth. We know the story. We know the tension of pose and context creates mind and drama. The artistist might have hurt this producer! The ingrate little Artist, being given that shot. And One of the Best Producers I Know.

          • Jibanyan

            Hey Amid. I faced a similar yet different situation with another artist (well mostly my friends). Can I share the story with you?

  • jjsemp

    For a brief time, I was a story editor on the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” NBC cartoon show back in the eighties. It was my least favorite show-running experience ever. (John Semper Jr.)

    • I never really cared for that one despite having watched it as a kid, I think seeing “The Alvin Show” when it aired on a UHF station around 1986 opened my eyes!

  • Slim Cognito

    This is unethical and I’m surprised it’s not illegal. I feel bad for anyone who’s had the misfortune of working for him.

  • Ken Martinez

    Some of the anecdotes in the (now deleted) post were pretty grim. Like the one about him denying employees health insurance.

  • Richard

    I heard that Bob Jaques put in a caricature of his road-killed dog in the Chipmunks parody on Mighty Mouse.

    • Anthony White

      Yep, that’s Mashie the Pup as his dog Tiger Lily. He even tells the kids at home to look both ways before crossing the street at the end of the episode.

      • The story behind that is rather clever one. Namely Bakshi’s group on Mighty Mouse shared the same space as that of Bagdasarian’s crew on their film (or where next door). That dog was Janice Karman’s and was allowed to roam the area, often doing what dogs do and annoying everyone until it got run over. Mashie the Pup, as well as the episode he appears in, is an obvious jab at Ross Jr.’s continuation of his father’s work.

        • d. harry

          two words: switchblade sisters

  • The_Purple_People_Eater

    BAGDASARIAAAAAAAAAN!!!

  • Jean Texier

    I’m still working on that series as a storyboard artist and I have had no complaints whatsoever, quite the contrary.

  • Greg Manwaring

    I’m owed $800 from underpaid work on some animation on “The Chipmunk Adventure”.

  • Jason Lethcoe

    I haven’t experienced anything other than honesty and integrity from the Bagdasarians. They set very high standards for their work and pay better than anyone else in the industry for storyboards. Not only that, but they’re one of the few family businesses left in the animation industry with heritage characters… of course they care very deeply and are extremely particular about them! Sorry to hear that there are some disgruntled folks out there, but please keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. No need to make personal attacks or ugly remarks. Let’s keep it professional, folks. If anyone feels unfairly treated, they should call and discuss it in person with Ross or Janice. They’re always open to discussing any misunderstandings with employees. As a thirty year vet, I’ve seen it all. Let’s stop “bagging” on the Bagdasarians. Haven’t we got something more positive to do with our time? If you have any personal issues with them, call them up… talk it out.

  • Kevin Johnson

    I have worked with Ross and Janice Bagdasarian since I met them on their third installment of their franchise movies “Chipwrecked” in 2010. I also worked with them and helped set up and acted as supervising producer on their recent television series mentioned in this article. Ross and Janice always were looking for quality for their show and we decided the best way was to freelance to the best story artists we could get. Over the course of three years working closely with Ross and Janice I have brought in some very talented story artists including all three mentioned in your article. Unfortunately not every artist was a fit and in two of these cases a large majority of their work had to be redone at a cost to the Bagdasarians’ and in the other case the episode was handed out to another artist to redo altogether. I would always like the artists I recommend to work out but over the course of 208 episodes that is probably not realistic. My experience in working for Ross and Janice and the entire crew at Bagdasarian Productions has been nothing but stellar and would happily work for them again.

  • Andre

    too bad. i kinda liked ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks

    • Funkybat

      This is the first I’ve seen of the new-ish “ALVINNNN” show, but I have to say, the character designs manage to find a new, hidden alcove in the Uncanny Valley. The Chipmunk characters were already heavily anthropomorphized, especially in the late 80s feature films. The recent features, for all their shortcomings, at least made them seem somewhat like actual chipmunks. These “ALVINNN” designs are like creepy proto-humans, even more “human” than the 80s feature Chipettes, and it’s just WEIRD to look at.

  • Ada

    Probably because they can be pursued legally for slander. :/

  • MKunkel

    Personally, I have to say that my experience working with Ross and Janice and everyone at Bagdasarian Productions has been one of the highlight experiences in my career. Seeing first hand their genuine care and sincere passion for a legacy brand is very encouraging to see in this day and age of corporate big studios. It means a lot to see a real life family business still connected to their creation, encouraging quality and pouring so much heart and caring into their projects and studio.